Television call: “Dear Zoe” filmed in Pittsburgh is released on demand in cinemas

Trib Total Media writer Rob Owen offers a viewing tip for the coming week.

It is hard to imagine a movie more Pittsburgh than the independent film “Dear Zoe”.

With scenes shot in Kennywood, North Shore, Strip, Squirrel Hill, and Braddock; with a glimpse of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” on the TV screen and the Iron City Beer, Steelers and Penguins logo adorning many walls and even some Pittsburghese (“You will start to turn red in your room!”), “Dear Zoe” was easily titled “Dear Pittsburgh “.

It was by design, said Sonoma, Californian screenwriter and producer Marc Lhormer (“Bottle Shock”), who grew up on the Shadyside / Oakland border and is a 1978 Shady Side Academy graduate.

“We wanted to write a love letter to Pittsburgh,” Lhormer said in a recent telephone interview.

Dear Zoe will be available Friday on video on demand for rental or purchase on cable and satellite systems and on streaming platforms (Amazon, iTunes, GooglePlay, Vudu, YouTube). From the same day, the film will also be shown in local cinemas (Manor Theater, Waterworks Cinemas, Cranberry Cinemas, Century Square Luxury Cinemas).

“Dear Zoe” is based on the 2005 novel by Pittsburgh writer Philip Beard who saw the first film produced by Marc and his wife / production partner Brenda Lhormer, Bottle Shock in 2008 at Waterworks Cinema. producer Carl Kurlander (“St. Elmo’s Fire”) – they were on the same chassis at the Shady Side Junior Academy – introduced Lhormer and Beard.

The Lhormers and their label, Zin Haze Productions, acquired the rights to adapt “Dear Zoe” as a movie with Pittsburgher Melissa Martin (“The Bread, My Sweet”) as a writer. A family breakdown prompted Martin to retire from “Dear Zoe” in 2010, which led Marc to take on a writing role to make the 10th anniversary movie on September 11, 2011.

Stranger Things actress Sadie Sink stars in Dear Zoe as Tess, who tells the story of the death of her little sister Zoe on September 11, 2001, completely unrelated to the September 11 terrorist attacks. The film also stars Theo Rossi (“Sons of Anarchy”) as Tess’s father, Jessica Capshaw (“Gray Anatomy”) as Tess’s mother and Justin Barth (“National Treasure”) as Tess’s stepfather. Young actress Vivien Lyra Blair, who played the young princess Leia in “Obi-Wan Kenobi,” filmed her role as Tess’s sister Em before traveling to a galaxy far, far away.

So why the 11-year delay between the initial release schedule for “Dear Zoe” and what actually happened? The Lhormers were engaged to create the Napa Valley Film Festival, which took them all the time from 2010 to departing in 2018 to return to “Dear Zoe.”

In the fall of 2019, they shot “Dear Zoe” in Pittsburgh for about $ 5 million (they applied but received no incentive for a tax credit for the film in Pennsylvania). The film was completed in 2020, and Lhormer, who had always wanted the film to have some kind of theater play, believed that the September 2021 premiere would coincide with the 20th anniversary of September 11, but the delta covid-19 variant thwarted those plans.

Lhormer said “Dear Zoe” arrives in November to coincide with Children’s Grief Awareness Month, which includes Children’s Grief Awareness Day celebrations on November 17 in Pittsburgh.

“I went and met people there and became very attached to them,” said Lhormer. “It has a very poignant feeling about the belief that you’ve probably heard that Christmas is really hard, especially in the first year after someone dies.”

Some of the local actors in “Dear Zoe” include Laurie Klatscher (“The Stranger”), Adrienne Wehr (“The Riddle”), Jonathan Visser (“Banshee”), Sophie Guest (“They”) and Mckenzie Noel Rusiewicz as Zoe.

In the scene where Tess and her father go to church, the true pastor and singer of the Braddock Resurrection Baptist Church, Richard Freeman Sr. and Annie Cunningham, play the church’s pastor and soloist.

Lhormer said Rossi was working in little Pittsburgh – a scene from “How about the Stillers?” landed on the cutting room floor – but the producers chose not to go all the pork.

“If you are not a native speaker, it is difficult to get the right accent,” said Lhormer. “He gave a chance to be a little more Pittsburgh, but we said,” Let’s not mess with that. Let’s really focus on your character. It’s such a great character. She is a multi-layered person. “

Lhormer worked in relation to Busy Beaver, a home improvement store that his father founded in 1962, making Rossi’s protagonist wear a Busy Beaver apron while grilling during a cooking scene.

Filming at Kennywood over the two working days in October 2019, when the park was closed to the public, worked well beyond inclement weather.

“They were delighted to have us, especially since Kennywood is not Adventureland or some other park in our movie,” said Lhormer, referring to the 2009 movie “Adventureland,” which was shot in Kennywood.

Dear Zoe will premiere Wednesday at a sold-out public screening at the August Wilson African American Center in Downtown Pittsburgh. The Sadie Sink Star is expected to attend.

The meeting with the producers will take place on Thursday after the second open-air show at the Oaks Theater in Oakmont. “Dear Zoe” will play at 7:30 PM Q&A at 9:00 PM (Cost: $ 20 per person including popcorn).

You can contact TV writer Rob Owen at [email protected] or 412-380-8559. Follow Rob on Twitter or Facebook. Ask questions about TV via email or phone. Enter your name and location.

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